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Saturday, July 24, 2004
Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but along with Providence, there is a second city with a rich history, from colonial times through the present. Newport has long been known as a traditional summer stop for the rich and famous. In fact, that is where John F. Kennedy married Jacquiline Bouvier, who summered at Hammersmith Farms. And, interestingly, where a young John Kerry met Kennedy..
But Newport's history begins long before that. In fact, it started when Ann Hutchinson, who has been covered here in depth, was kicked out of Boston for her antinomian views, and led the first settlers to Aquidneck Island. This early quest for religious freedom was later to result in the arrival of a group of Sephardic Jews, who established Touro Synagogue, the first in the US.
In the 18th century, Newport was the home of some of the finest furniture makers ever. The Townsend and Goddard families, joined by marriage, produced cabinets and other items which have drawn the highest prices ever at auction..
In the late 19th century, Newport really hit its stride. The great millionaires of the Gilded Age built gigantic mansions in Newport, as summer cottages. It became the most exclusive resort in the world, for a time.
A recent notable who made her home in Newport was the eccentric heiress and philanthropist, Doris Duke, of the tobacco family. She lived at Rough Point, and collected beautiful objects of all kinds..she was also, by all accounts, a person who did much good with her wealth, including anonymously supporting many jazz musicians who had hit tough times..
Speaking of jazz, the Newport Jazz Festival, the 'granddaddy of them all' celebrates 50 years this year..
In 1965, the Newport Folk Festival was the scene where Bob Dylan made history by 'plugging in' for an electric version of 'Maggie's Farm'. You can download an mp3 of that performance, as well as other mid 60's Dylan, at this site..
Two other famous Newport institutions are the Naval War College and the International Tennis Hall of Fame..
Finally, a nice PBase gallery, mostly of pictures taken along the 'cliff walk'. This is a beautiful spot for an afternoon hike, with many scenic vistas as the walk overlooks the ocean, and wends its way behind the mansions...it also snakes by a Catholic girls college, Salve Regina , which- you don't need to be told I'm sure- the locals call 'Save the Vagina'...
"If at first you don't succeed... So much for skydiving."